Adventists in Caribbean Public Service
By Dion E. Phillips
Dion E. Phillips, professor emeritus of sociology, University of the Virgin Islands, is fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist and Adventist church elder for more than 20 years.
First Published: April 5, 2022
During the early decades of Seventh-day Adventist missions in the Caribbean, missionaries eschewed public service in the public arena. This stance was influenced by the views of early Adventist leaders and promoted among the laity reaching back to the Millerites.1 However, as the wave of Adventism spread across the region, the wider society began to acknowledge the positive lifestyle of the Adventist subculture, especially in promoting good citizenry, health services, and education. At the same, several young Caribbean Adventists became interested in public service, although Caribbean church leaders did not endorse members’ involvement in the political arena. Notwithstanding, a few emerged as political leaders.
Among the earliest holders of government positions was Frank Bayne of Barbados, who was appointed a member of the colony’s legislative assembly in 1959.2 Since then, Adventists in the Caribbean have continued to step into the public square. One study shows that at least thirty-two Adventists have held public office in twelve Caribbean countries from 1959 to 2020.3 Three have served as governors-general or heads of state representing the English Crown in countries that are members of the Commonwealth, a relic of the colonial empire. These include: James Carlisle, Antigua and Barbuda;4 Patrick Allen, Jamaica; 5 and Philip Greaves (acting), Barbados. Twenty-six have served as elected officials of parliament, among them a chief minister, three prime ministers, and three deputy prime ministers.
Some politicians were born and remained active Adventist church members. Such were Philip Greaves and Louis Straker, deputy prime minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Others were educated at Adventist schools. Among the latter, Menissa Rambally, a University of the Southern Caribbean graduate, was the permanent representative for St. Lucia to the United Nations in 2012.
The public service of these Adventists has been recognized. Four have been knighted by the Queen Elizabeth II. Floyd Morris, president of the Jamaica senate, was recognized by the General Conference in 2015 for service to his country.6
Adams, Roy “He said NO to Her Majesty: The Story of Sir James Carlisle, Governor-General.” ARH, December 9, 1994.
“Adventist Church Honors Jamaica’s Senate President.” Jamaica Observer. July 25, 2015. Accessed February 27, 2022. https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Adventist-church-honours-Jamaica-s-Senate-president_19219495.
“Adventist Church Official Named Jamaica’s New Governor General.” ANN English. January 12, 2009. Accessed February 27, 2022. https://adventist.news/news/adventist-church-official-named-jamaicas-new-governor-general.
Butler, Jonathan M. “Adventism and the American Experience.” In The Rise of Adventism: A Commentary on the Social and Religious Ferment of Mid-Century America, edited by Edwin Scott Baustad, 173-206. New York: Harper-Rowe Publisher, 1974.
Phillips, Dion E. “West Indian Adventists and Caribbean Witness in Public Life in the Caribbean.” Unpublished paper, 2020.
Phillips, Glenn O. Seventh-day Adventists in Barbados: Over a Century of Adventism 1884-1991. Bridgetown, Barbados: East Caribbean Conference, 1991.
Jonathan M. Butler, “Adventism and the American Experience,” in The Rise of Adventism: A Commentary on the Social and Religious Ferment of Mid-Century America, ed. Edwin Scott Baustad (New York: Harper-Rowe Publisher, 1974), 173-206.↩
Glenn O. Phillips, Seventh-day Adventism in Barbados: Over a Century of Adventism in Barbados 1884-1991 (Bridgetown, Barbados: East Caribbean Conference, 1991), 172.↩
Dion E. Phillips, “West Indian Adventists and Caribbean Witness in Public Life in the Caribbean,” Unpublished paper, 2020.↩
Roy Adams, “He said NO to Her Majesty: The Story of Sir James Carlisle, Governor-General,” ARH, December 9, 1994, 8-10.↩
“Adventist Church Official Named Jamaica’s New Governor General,” ANN English, January 12, 2009, accessed February 27, 2022, https://adventist.news/news/adventist-church-official-named-jamaicas-new-governor-general.↩
“Adventist Church Honors Jamaica’s Senate President,” Jamaica Observer, July 25, 2015, accessed February 27, 2022, https://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Adventist-church-honours-Jamaica-s-Senate-president_19219495.↩